While following the disappearance former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar, I often see comments from posters that generally say, “Ray Gricar would…” or “Ray Gricar wouldn’t ... ,” do something. Some of the people that say that never met Mr. Gricar nor ever even have been to Centre County. Some that had met Mr. Gricar didn’t actually know him, and certainly were not close to him on a personal level. I laugh when I read the comments, because they are not what Mr. Gricar would do, they are what the poster would do. And, yes, I’m probably guilty of that myself.
I do look at the recent comments of people who did know Mr. Gricar, well. He is one from his girlfriend, housemate, and coworker, Patty Fornicola, “I don’t feel a gut feeling that he’s dead.” Here is one from his daughter, Lara, “I have absolutely no doubt that he is not alive.”1 “If you're out there, I hope you know we still think and pray for you every day,” said close friend Steve Sloane in a comment2, indicating the possibility that Mr. Gricar is alive (or has a fantastic Internet connection, if he’s reading this blog in the afterlife).
A few weeks ago, I had an e-mail from a Centre County resident well connected with the Courthouse. The resident, who knew Mr. Gricar somewhat, told me this joke was circulating, “Ray Gricar was hiding in bin Laden’s closest, but the SEAL team missed him.” I laughed, but it probably does illustrate how a many, if not most, of the people that knew Mr. Gricar think he left voluntarily.
So, how much weight should we give to these impressions? In looking at other missing persons cases, not too much weight to them. Last year, I looked three other missing person cases, Michelle “Shelly” Whitaker3, Michelle McMullen, and Angie Lynn Daley4. Let’s look briefly again at each and at the reaction to the disappearance of each missing person’s loved one.
Ms. Whitaker’s family was convinced that she would never leave without telling them, even if she had a drinking problem. They were convinced that she would never leave her dog, which she loved, behind. Her parents launched a sustained media campaign to find her and held a remembrance service for her. Ms. Whitaker, however, was alive in Washington State, living under her own name.
Ms. McMullen had a good and supportive family. Her parents lived in Harrisburg and she was in her third year of college at Grambling; she was also working and had a young son. When she didn’t arrive back at school from a visit home, her parents reported her missing, I think within 48 hours of contact. Her parents were convinced that she’d never leave her son behind or abandon her dream of college. Even after a theft charge was filed against her by a former employer, and evidence mounted that she had left voluntarily, her parents still insisted that she never would run away. Ms. McMullen was found, and arrested, in California earlier this year.
These two cases were profiled on the television program Disappeared, the same program that ran an episode on the Gricar case. The tipster that spotted Ms. McMullen called the police because he saw the Disappeared episode on her. The third case, never made it that far.5
When Ms. Daley disappeared from her home in Waynesboro, nothing too much happened. Her family only reported her missing two weeks after they last heard from her; they thought she had run away. Ms. Daley had gone off on her own previously, was suggested to have a drug problem, and was known to hitch rides across county with truck drivers. It sure looks everyone at the time thought that this is what happened.
14 ½ years after Ms. Daley disappeared, in April of 2010, her body was found outside of Waynesboro; she had been murdered. The police there are investigating and there may be a suspect.6
These three cases show the problem with knowing something in your gut or your heart or, in what it really is, feeling something emotionally. The emotional reaction often leads to the wrong conclusion, one that is demonstrably false. It tells us more about how the person reacting feels than about what happened.
What is important is what Mr. Gricar felt, as determined through his own words or actions.
[Due to the press of some other matters, I might be more sporadic than usual.]
1 These statements were from the Disappeared episode on Mr. Gricar.
Centre Daily Times Ray Gricar Section: http://www.centredaily.com/138/
Link to the Main Index for Sporadic Comments on Ray Gricar: http://www.centredaily.com/2011/03/21/2597340/main-index-32011.html
E-mail J. J. in Phila at firstname.lastname@example.org